A New Twist
Some time ago, in an article entitled “Un-Zinc-Able,” I outlined a way that boaters could more easily remove defunct, pencil-type zincs stuck in their engines. Pencil zincs (often also called engine anodes) typically feature a zinc rod with a threaded end that screws into a brass, hexagonal plug. The plug, in turn, is wrench-tightened into a designated port on a heat exchanger, intercooler or some other engine-related device so the rod can protect against galvanic corrosion. Of course, there’s one big, historical problem with pencil zincs, besides occasionally forgetting to replace them in a timely manner—the zinc rods can be tough to remove in one piece and replace, once they’ve wasted away via the corrosive action they’re meant to address. A rod can essentially weld itself to the interior components of a heat exchanger. Then, when torque is applied to the exchanger’s plug with a wrench to remove the remains of the rod, either the entire thing unthreads itself and remains inside or a welded-on chunk breaks free and does the same thing. As many of us know, subsequently extracting—or trying to extract—the entire rod or chunks of it typically requires special tools (forceps, needle-nose pliers, etc.) or some sort of complicated, pain-in-the-transom process like removing the exchanger’s end cap or caps so its innards can be sucked clean with a Shop-Vac.
The “Un-Zinc-Able” tip I wrote about three years ago was a simple one and came from Robert J. Kardy, a fellow boater. Kardy suggested putting a dollop of glue—Gorilla Glue, for example—on the eraser of a No. 2 pencil, letting the stuff get really tacky and, perhaps with a little help from a flashlight, using the sticky end of the pencil to ferret out and remove zinc detritus from the exchanger, intercooler or whatever. I filed the tip away in the archive between my ears, tried it out with success, wrote it up for Power & Motoryacht and, after a week or so, endeavored to move on, at least until Lady Luck kicked in.
After reading “Un-Zinc-able” while on board his Mainship trawler, Massachusetts boater and mechanical engineer Howie Taitel experienced an ah-ha moment. Then he sent news to me of a very interesting—and potentially useful—technological wrinkle he’d been working on over the previous year. Taitel had invented, he said, a pencil-type zinc that was neither threaded nor immovably secured within its brass plug. Instead, by means of a “retention mechanism” he’d recently patented, the zinc rod of Taitel’s nifty new anode and its brass plug were free to rotate independently. And this feature allowed the plug, as it was being unscrewed during an anode replacement, to essentially extract the spent, stationary zinc straight back without unthreading it or breaking it into chunks. The retention mechanism, Taitel concluded, was designed to obviate wrench-induced torque and apply force along the length of the rod, its strongest direction.
I gotta say, considering that engine anode technology hasn’t changed much in the past 60 years, Taitel’s invention sounded intriguing. So, at my behest, he sent an appropriate set of his new REDZ Engine Anodes in the mail. For the most part, they looked like conventional pencil-type zincs when I received them, except for the red coloration of the brass plugs—a great idea, by the way, since it helps an occasional out-to-luncher like myself stay cognizant of exactly where all his anodes are. And, after a thorough examination, I installed them in the Betty Jane II’s 240-hp Yanmar 4HLA-STP diesel about five months ago.
Things have gone smoothly since then. Just before press time, I pulled all six of my Yanmar’s zincs and found they were uniformly healthy. This was grand, certainly, but the development does not allow me to claim I’ve tested the efficacy of Taitel’s new product to my total satisfaction. Yeah, I’ve had no zinc chunks, unthreaded rods or other issues to deal with so far, whether in my Yanmar’s lube-oil cooler, freshwater cooler or intercooler. But hey, I think at least a few more months of testing are necessary. Just to make sure. So, stay tuned.
REDZ Engine Anodes are available in a variety of sizes at redzincs.com. They cost just a tad more than conventional zincs, generally speaking. But if, as Taitel contends, they reliably obviate having to fish around for hours with a set of needle-nose pliers—or indeed, a pencil with glue on the end of it—within the dark depths of an engine-related component, they may just be worth it.